An unprecedented number of people turned out for York Civic Trust’s latest blue plaque unveiling.

More than 60 people witnessed the plaque unveiling in honour of Thomas Cooke (1807-1868) on Friday, 23 August 2019, at the Observatory in the Museum Gardens, which houses one of his famous refractory telescopes.

Thomas Cooke plaque unveiling. 23 August 2019
Attendees of the Thomas Cooke plaque unveiling in front of the Yorkshire Museum in the Museum Gardens.

The plaque was the co-arranged by York Civic Trust, the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and York Museums Trust, and with a good amount of representatives from each in attendance.

The unveiling of the plaque, with Catherine Brophy of YPS, left, a descendant of Thomas Cooke who made performed the unveiling, and Dr Peter Addyman of YCT.

Thomas Cooke was an internationally-renowned Victorian optical instrument maker. Cooke built an extensive Buckingham Works factory in York’s Bishophill area in 1855, and operated as T. Cooke & Sons. The firm later moved to Haxby Road and ceased trading in 1980.

Cooke’s rotating observatory domes included those at Greenwich and Scarborough Observatories. Indeed, by the end of the century, Thomas Cooke’s domes had been built in countries throughout the world. He was elected a member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1859. 

The unveiling ceremony was marked by short speeches by Dr Peter Addyman, President of York Civic Trust; Stuart Ogilvy, Deputy Curator of Geology at the Yorkshire Museum, and Catherine Brophy, Chair of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.

This was followed by a short presentation by Dr Dorothy Nott, Trustee of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, which covered Thomas Cooke’s life and deeds. And a direct descendant of Thomas Cooke unveiled the plaque.  

Aside from the three co-contributing organisations, those attending also included members of York Clock Group, Pocklington and District Local History Group, and a number of astronomers from regional and national organisations, including the Royal Astronomy Society and the British Astronomical Association. 

Historic brass plaque on the Thomas Cooke telescope in the Observatory

Afterwards, the Yorkshire Philosophical Society provided a reception at nearby York Explore Library

More details on Thomas Cooke’s life and deeds can be found on our website.

One thought on “Thomas Cooke YCT plaque unveiling sees record crowd

  1. My gt gt grandfather John Smith was an amateur astronomer, born in 1807 in Bielby i.e. the same year as Thomas Cooke and very close to Allerthorpe. I have a photo of John with a telescope, probably one of Cooke’s? Perhaps they were acquaintances or friends.

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